THE wife of former First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Ouk Phalla, 39, died while the prince was “severely” injured following a road accident in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nub district on Sunday morning, officials said.
Rananriddh, who is also the president of the Funcinpec party, and his wife were travelling from Kampot province in his BMW along with a motorcade consisting of other party leaders, to a campaign rally in Preah Sihanouk, said Yun Min, the provincial governor.
At about 9am on Sunday, Prince Ranariddh and Phalla were travelling on National Road 4 when a Toyota Highlander taxi ferrying several passengers and coming from the opposite direction, collided head on with the motorcade. At least five others were also injured in the incident.
The royal couple were immediately airlifted to the provincial hospital, said the deputy chief of the provincial traffic police, Ket Sopheak.
Min said that a doctor informed him that Phalla died at about noon.
According to a local police official who asked not to be named, the driver of the taxi, Vul Saret, 34, was slightly injured and, after seeking treatment at a private clinic, was detained by the provincial police.
“The Highlander slammed into the prince’s vehicle which caused a total of seven people to be badly injured, including two women. After the accident, the prince and his wife were rushed to emergency room at the provincial hospital,” he said at the time.
Min said Ranariddh was later taken to the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital by helicopter and warded at about 1:15pm, noting that the 74-year-old is currently “in a serious but stable condition”.
Funcinpec party’s spokesman Nheb Bun Chin said: “We were all panicking at the moment. I cannot think straight. We don’t have any new news for now. Early news remains the same. [The prince] is under supervision of a doctor. We have not received any later news,” he said.
Run Rath Veasna, head of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Traffic and Public Order, expressed concern over the high number of road accidents and noted that they mostly happened on national roads 4 and 5.
“What we are worried about is that there are too many vehicles, and accidents continue to happen. Despite our efforts, some drivers still do not obey traffic laws,” he said.
He added that speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and aggressive driving are among the main reasons for road accidents.
“At least three people every day have died this month in road accidents. The death toll can reach seven on any given day, but today alone about five people have died nationwide,” Rath Veasna said.
Ranariddh, who is the half brother of the current King and son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, has faced criticism of late for taking part in July’s national elections, especially after the Supreme Court dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
The party was seen as the only viable alternative to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party. After the dissolution, Ranariddh was given one of the distributed CNRP’s seats in the National Assembly.
Hun Sen, who was previously second prime minister to Ranariddh, ousted him in 1997.
This was not the first time that Prince Ranariddh and Phalla have been involved in a traffic accident. In April 2015, the couple was in a car accident in Prey Chhor district in Kampong Cham province. Phalla’s left eye was badly injured. She was hospitalised abroad for a time.